Emerging adults who experience victimization are at risk for numerous negative health outcomes, including psychological distress, sexual risk behaviors, and tobacco product and other substance use. The negative impact of victimization could be even more profound among sexual and gender minority (SGM) emerging adults, a population that experiences multiple forms of discrimination and stigma based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Understanding the correlates of victimization and multiple specific experiences of victimization among this population is warranted. The aim of this study is to describe the prevalence of multiple victimization and associated factors among a community sample of SGM emerging adults who use tobacco products in California.
We analyzed data from a larger study understanding the disparities in tobacco product use among SGM emerging adults in California. Recruitment occurred between 2020 and 2021 through both online and in-person strategies. For this analysis, we only included individuals who self-reported as cis-gender sexual minority men/women or transgender or gender nonconforming (TGNC; n=846). We used a 6-item scale to assess victimization and we also measured minority stressors including felt stigma, outness, experienced discrimination, and social support. Descriptive statistics for all study variables were calculated, including frequencies, ranges, means, and standard deviations. Pearson’s correlations were calculated to examine the bivariate associations between victimization and other study variables. Stepwise linear regression was used to determine the predictors of victimization.
The average age of participants was 23.1 (SD=3.11), 44.5% were cis-gender sexual minority women, 31.1% were TGNC, and 24.4% were cis-gender sexual minority men. The prevalence of experiencing victimization was 85.5% and over seventy percent (71.3%) reported having experienced two or more forms victimization. A majority of participants who had experienced victimization indicated that these experiences were due to gender expression or appearance, or sexual orientation. Compared to cis-gender sexual minority men or women, TGNC emerging adults were more likely to report a higher number of victimization experiences (p<0.01). In bivariate analysis, being unstably housed and nicotine dependent was associated with increasing numbers of victimization experienes (b=1.76, SE=0.29; b=0.92, SE=0.27 respectively). Stepwise multivariate regression analysis (R2=0.31, p<0.0001) showed that a high score of felt stigma and experiences of discrimination, a low score of social support and LGBT community connectedness, predicted higher numbers of victimization experiences.
Conclusions and implications
We observed a high prevalence of lifetime victimization and experiencing multiple victimization among a sample SGM emerging adults in California. Prevention programs should consider the complex interplay between individual, community, and societal level factors correlated with victimization for SGM emerging adults. Specifically, programs seeking to prevent victimization among this population could aim to bolster social support and increase connection to the LGBT communities. These strategies must also consider the negative effects of minority stressors among SGM emerging adults. Stigma and discrimination reduction related to sexual orientation and gender expression is critical for violence and victimization prevention.